So what are you about?

So what are you about?

You think about it every time you need a tagline. Or an About page. It’s always about distilling who you are into a snippet and posting it like a precious something on your website front door. You bump into it every time you’re asked what you do or when you’re pitching to investors, editors or what have you. Whoever is out there looking for what you’ve got needs to see a good enough version of it to say “Keep talking.” That’s all you’re after.

The good part is you know what you’re looking for. A few words. A sentence tops.

What do I mean? You may have noticed pics of me in a funky Japanese kimono on the website. That’s because I do aikido. (Most of my clients think it’s karate, but that’s fine.) Here’s the street talk about aikido: it uses the energy or ki of the attacker to deviate the attack, leaving everyone unharmed. It’s a mouthful. So how else can you say it with less? I had a small epiphany last weekend in Paris, as I heard a great master boil it into a haiku line: Your ki is mine. I was starstruck.

Before we go any further, please beware your tagline speaks of your cure to the clients’ pain and your high concept pitch is, as you will learn from the excellent Piching Hacks, “a perfect meme for fans and investors who are spreading the word about your company.” You need both. 

Get those done, and you graduate to level two: the Home page and the elevator speech. Again, they will be great conversation starters to get people to want to know more about you and your idea, product, company. An elevator speech should take no more than 1 minute. That’s about 150 words, by the way. Your home page should get broken into blocks like that or less. Because you can always say more if they’re listening.

And if they are, congratulations, you’re at level three: now you need an About page and a deck. The About page is your (company’s or idea’s) bio deconstructed (you deliver the chunks your clients actually care for; they’re not your mom and don’t really want to know everything), nicely packged. The deck is your presentation. They both tell your compelling story about your team, idea or your product. People get to know, like and trust you in the process. It’s why they do business with you in the first place.

There’s a level four, too, by the way. The Sales page and your sales pitch (which may have something to do with but is not your business plan). Your signature talk is also nearby. The kind you would give at TEDx, for instance.

But they all start with what you and your idea are about, with those few, neatly stacked words. Once that is handled, crisply I might add, everything else is a bit like a game of puzzle. The question is, how do you get that?

Whatever you and your idea are about, where to start is always your own thoughts. Record yourself as you would pitch, however clumsily. Ideally, have a devil’s advocate provoke you. You might just get it out of you when under a bit of pressure. Then look at the data and see what gets repeated. You may need to flip a bit, get out of the attacker’s way (remember, their ki is yours anyway!). The words will emerge. You might just have some fun. Or just book here for a ride. We’ll do it together.

PS. Paris was great, by the way. I’m not much of a pic person, but these have a story: a shy guy worked to courage to ask me out for coffee at the Concorde (somewhere at the lion’s feet). I barely got it and said no without thinking much. He vanished into the Rue Rivoli arcades. The next day I found this chic writing school on the way from St. Germain to Notre Dame. When in Paris.

Know anyone you want to see do well? Give them this.

Know anyone you want to see do well? Give them this.

“I don’t get what you do, but I wish you well. Really.” Have you ever thought that about a friend?  You’re in their corner through and through, and really want them to nail it. Because they have this idea that could make the planet virtually garbage free, or work on a project to give free books to kids in distant villages. Or maybe because they’re someone you love, looking for a way to make a living with no ethical dilemmas attached. And that is, oh, so rare and precious. Potpourris are just as legit as strategy masterminds. To someone, they are THE thing. And I love that.

That’s my thing, by the way. Helping people with ideas, dreams and businesses with copy and direction. It started years ago. I met this lovely mother of two who had a day job, and also baked ring cakes and made postcards every Christmas. And I wanted to do something for her but did not really know what. (It was before Facebook. We had a life then, too.) I was in my corporate media job, but could see that what she was doing was outstanding.

Years later, a very good friend was redesigning his coaching practice and starting his first strategy courses. He’d basically teach how to flip the mindset switch and build a wow product for your ocean of clients. He had coached me before. I knew he had the stuff. And this time I was better equipped. I listened, asked questions, then picked up snippets from his own lines. Maybe occasionally rephrased them. Lined them up nicely in good old Socratic style. And served it on a platter. Bam, before I knew it, I was in business. Then we did his TEDx talk on music cracking the code for performance 500 years before business. It’s us in the pic below, on that very day.

And then, gradually, a tribe of unsung heroes came through: green energy advisors, apps, blockchain enthusiasts and software developers. They all have something in common with my baking lady: they put an idea out there to make somebody’s life a dollop better. They pour their hearts into their work and give it to the world.

I can think of lots of people like that: Oana Manolescu, the designer whose clothes are the skin I live in almost every day. Or Parul Macdonald, an articulate Random House editor turned coach for every enterpreneur out there wanting to write their signature book. You want them in your corner!

I’m a copywriter, by the way. I’ve always loved words and writing, I was just too busy proving myself on the corporate ladder to notice it. I did a mix of PR, marketing and sales for 17 years. Which is where my B-skills come from. I then got my online education with the entrepreneurial biggies and emerging stars: Marie Forleo, Laura Belgray, and Selena Soo.

Starting out is not easy. I know what if feels like when your number one relationship is your laptop. When your idea nags you to come out and keeps you up at night, but words just don’t sound right. And if that is someone you know, this is my cue.

I’ve decided to help 100 people in the next three months with copy and strategy. I will be offering 100 hours of free copy edits and strategy tweaks to anyone with an idea, project or business, the desire to see it through and, ideally (not necessarily), a drafted website.

If any of your friends need that, send them my way. I would love to help them.  And thank you for wanting to see them succeed. I do, too.

The trip to Italy. With or without Steve Coogan.

The trip to Italy. With or without Steve Coogan.

I came across the movies a few years ago: The trip (to England), The trip to Italy and recently The trip to Spain. Steve Coogan and the new to me but oh, so smart and funny Rob Brydon jump from feast to feast, splash glam and humour impersonating every great actor you can think of, while secretly facing the uncertainty and anxiety of their jobs. The occasional family crisis will kick in for good measure. Because life, loneliness etc.

But that’s not what I wanted to say about the trip to Italy. (Although the movies deserve a try on a Sunday rainy afternoon.) My trip to Italy was decided late one February night, when wired with possibility and wonder of my new copywriting life, I saw the words that glued me in: “Come write with me in Italy” and “become a content machine.” That was my moment. I was sold. I barely saw the pics with deep blue waters, macaroon coloured houses, plates of pasta, cheese and shrimp, and smiling faces. I applied. (Ha, just wanting to go was not enough! You had to be accepted. But I’m an achiever, when did an application ever put me off?)

It must have weighed a lot that the “me” doing the luring to Italy was Laura Belgray. I love Laura. She’s funny, wise and keeps it real. Not that she’ll break your heart or anything, but you’ll know where your craft stands with her. And she’ll teach you the hows. I came across this really thorough writing conference the other day. Great lineup, funky topics, the works. But after three days with Laura in Italy, I knew I already had the essentials on, if not more.

 

When I told everyone I would be going to Cinque Terre, I got the universal “oh, it’s so beautiful there.” And it’s true. But that’s not why I went. I went to learn from a master. After 15 years of aikido, I know one when I see one.

So what did I get out of it? To begin with, I got plenty of focaccia al pesto from the Paneficio Rosi. Definitely in the top 3 ever. I shared a studio with Rachel, a really cool contemporary dance choreographer and coach from London. We would wake up early, go for a dip in the sea, grab breakfast from the signora at Rosi’s and head straight to the Castle on the top of the hill for class. We’d sit tight at our desks, typing away or soaking up Laura’s words of wisdom and jokes. Here’s the thing with Laura: every sentence is a picture. She’s not late, she’s dragging her feet. She doesn’t want you to do her course. She wants you to get your butt in there. She’ll teach you what F-words not to use and what to say for clients to go “I love you, here’s my credit card.” I did. I think I went to Italy hoping for confirmation. For faith. And that, I got.

Who do you think comes to write with Laura in Riomaggiore? Some seriously cool, accomplished women (no men attended. Maybe next time.) from all over the world. I was so happy to meet them. Happy to make friends with Monicka, and Sara, Devora, Zafira, and Barbara, Kate, and Tracy, and Rachel, and Caroline. All of them, really. We stayed in touch, relied on one another through thick and thin. Daily calls for support and troubleshooting with Monicka have become a thing (seriously, the woman is an encyclopaedia for online entrepreneurs). At night we would go for aperitivo, which is a small dinner before dinner, dinner and then drinks and stories after. The way to be in Riomaggiore, by the way, is off hours. A whirlwind of tourists hits the place from 10 AMish to 9 PMish, which is largely when we were up in the castle, writing and laughing away.

 

On the last night, we had a party on a terrace overlooking the bay. Prosecco flew in waves over spicy chats and laugher. I only stopped for a brief game of pig in the middle in front of the church with Portos and Aramis, two brilliant football players in the making, now still in secondary school, but out in the world at large soon. Alessandro, our flawless workshop hostess Bianca‘s husband, put the game together and joined in, shoes off, tactfully rewriting my “f*cks.” “She said duck,” he kept on saving my face to the boys’ mother, watching on the sidelines. It lasted a few precious minutes. Then I was back at the party, taking in relationship advice from Devora. As you will learn on such trips, having a younger husband is OK. Devora tried it and it works. “How much younger is he?” I ask. “Four days.”

I’d go again in a heartbeat. Now go pack a bag! Laura and Bianca will take care of the rest. (The place always fills up fast, so don’t drag your feet.)

Want blog posts to look irresistible with? Then don’t do this!

Want blog posts to look irresistible with? Then don’t do this!

There will be no naming of names, but the message had dropped like a bomb. They wanted blog posts. I was going to give it to them. That worked. The topic was out(ish) of my zone, but I would have checked the golden exploration box. After Neil Gaiman said J.R.R Tolkien came up with The Lord of the Rings by digging deep into linguistincs and not fantasy, I was sold and ready, sharpened pencils at my side.

“So who do I interview?” I had asked naively. Which is when they hit back. “Oh, we want you to write without an interview.” Cybersilence. The awkward Jamie Ferguson moment. Then I hit reply.

“I can write pertinent, lively stuff. But not from imagination. Only from your trenches.” Not that it’s a war, they’re more like ditches to build your business foundation in. But those ditches are sacred ground. It’s where reality occurs. And words that move your business forward can only come from your reality and that of your clients.

I love writing in other people’s voice. In fact, one of my oldest friends calls me Alien (in a cute, cuddly way, I guess). I will enter your space, catch up invisible vibes all around you and lay them nicely on the page. Also, I will get your thoughts nicely trimmed and ready for a smashing night on the town. But only if you give them to me. And since words are my hammer and sickle (this is my Commie childhood kicking in), we need to talk. Actually, you need to talk. I listen and launch a question now and then (it won’t take long, think 30 min to an hour for a good batch).

Want some takeaway? Blog about you, your business and your clients. Especially about your clients. But not from wikipedia. From your reality, trials, errors and joys. That’s what’s actually irresisitible about you.

So if you need some really magic glue posts for your clients to read and want you in their lives, send me a line. I’ll be ready. But only if you talk to me. If you’re not into talking, don’t! I’m probably not your girl.

PS Oh, you know what? Just tell me what your struggle with blog posts is. I’ll PM you my thoughts to fix it. Yes, I love the trenches.

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